¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† We now have the limited-edition cassette on Black Horizons available, with hand-assembled packaging involving full-color digital prints on pearl vellum and black linen covers, issued in a run of one hundred copies.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Has it really been seven years since the last time we heard a full-length from Pyramids? Sure, this ever-morphing ensemble headed by visionary musician R. Loren has continued to put out a steady stream of splits and collaborations with the likes of Nadja, Wraiths, Mamiffer and Horseback in the years since their stunning self-titled debut came out on Hydra Head, but A Northern Meadow is in fact the first stand-alone full length Pyramids release since 2008. And it's amazing. I loved the debut, which blew me away when it came out, a mysterious and multi-faceted blast of soaring melody and alien textures, gorgeously arranged vocal melodies and waves of crushing guitar that fell somewhere in between prog rock, black metal and the heaviest strains of dreampop, but which ultimately sounded totally unique. And their various splits and collabs have been fantastic as well, some of it reaching even higher levels of otherworldly beauty and deeper realms of darkened, crushing heaviness. But on the band's latest, Pyramids delivers what may be their most focused and seamless work, resulting in one of the best dark prog albums that's come out so far this year.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† It's also some of the most gorgeous stuff that Pyramids has done. When that first song kicks in with its mix of keening Thom Yorke-esque crooning, blackened tremolo riffing and tricked-out prog rock arrangements, I'm in heaven. The music is a perfect balance of violent energy and complex beauty, opening with a stunning blast of intricate, almost shoegazey sound that obliterates the boundaries of genre. And as Meadow unfolds, that sound grows more malevolent, finding its way from the complex beauty and power of "In Perfect Stillness, I've Only Found Sorrow" to the seething black metal-isms of "The Substance Of Grief Is Not Imaginary", a song that resembles a strangely pretty version of Blut Aus Nord's convoluted, avant-garde black metal. Which makes sense, seeing as how Loren and his band mates are joined by Blut Aus Nord's Vindsval for much of the album. He's part of an impressive guest roster on the album, joined by experimental electronic artist William Fowler Collins and Colin Marston from Gorguts / Behold The Arctopus / Krallice. This formidable crew sculpts the album into a kind of dark, pop-flecked prog rock, and as it continues, that sound is further fleshed out with heavier undercurrents and lush electronic backdrops. The black metal elements recur throughout the songs, but frequently untangle themselves from the contorted riffage and blast beats and soaring vocals to coalesce into the most heart-rending of melodic hooks. It often spills out into sprawls of immersive synthesizer and lush ambient textures, bits of industrial abrasion seeping into the drumming and electronics, the songs woven from complex rhythmic interplay and layered melodies that continue to surprise and stir the soul with each revisit. "My Father, Tall As Goliath" is dark prog-pop sorcery, while "Indigo Birds" disappears into a breathtaking kosmische middle that channels the most epic of 70's space music, before swarming back into more of that labyrinthine riffery. The heavier-than-thou may scoff at the gorgeous singing that sits at the forefront of these songs, but this is still heavy, heavy stuff, much of it amongst the heaviest Pyramids music I've heard so far.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Stunning stuff. There's a similar enigmatic art-rock vibe as stuff like Time Of Orchids and Kayo Dot, but the metallic elements are much more prominent, specifically the black metal influences that inflame Meadow's more furious moments. If you're a fan of the previous Pyramids output, I can't imagine that you won't flip over this. It's a Pretty confident saying it's the strongest music the band has brought us yet. Highly recommended.